Eli5: how is an impartial jury chosen for cases involving public officials and political figures?


Eli5: how is an impartial jury chosen for cases involving public officials and political figures?

In: 3

You don’t. Impartiality has little to do with our judicial system. It is a game played by lawyers who seek to win–respecting the law and justice aren’t really the objective. Both sides try and make the jury as unbalanced in their favor that they think they can. Both sides can challenge potential jury members for reason and each side is usually given a set number of jurors they can reject for no reason. In theory the jury will be somewhat of a compromise between the two sides.

Polluted jury pool is a real problem, but the jury system is better than some magistrate determining guilt or Innocence.

While other people have given answers about how lawyers try to do it; I’m going to talk about why it doesn’t actually matter.

The goal of juries aren’t to be “impartial” – in fact, the goal of the first juries were to be specifically partial: they were an anti-government tool to prevent governmental overreach. They were originally forced on the King of England by Lords (“Peers”) to prevent the King from making up laws and putting judges in place to pin crimes on said Lords – and then, when it worked well for the Lords, was forced on them by the lower classes; eventually becoming available to anyone.

While we don’t talk about it as much today, the goal of a jury is to force the government to prove their case: to show that the person in question did something against the rules, and that because they broke the rules, should be punished by the government in the way the government is asking for. If the government fails on either account: they fail to show the person did the thing that is against the rules, OR fail to show that the person should be punished; then the job of the jury is to tell the government “no”.

However, the government gets one protection against the jury: there are rules for picking a jury that give the government some ability to remove jury members that are too in favor of the defendant or otherwise likely to ignore the case and just say “no”. Originally, it was down to a vote of the Lords: the King needed to convince some majority of the Lords that this one Lord broke the rules and should be punished. Today, the exact rules depend from place to place, but it usually means that there will be some number of people selected who are available for the trial, and the government can only reject so many of those potential jurors.

In modern juries where there isn’t the same presumption of mutual interest (Lords would often stand together against the King just because he was the King), defense lawyers get similar options for picking a jury.